Dr Jumoke Oduwole is the Special Adviser to the President on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria. In this article, Africa Legal writer, Ifeoluwa Ogunbufunmi, pays tribute to the woman who has mentored her since she was a law student at the University of Lagos.
Mentoring is about shaping. It is about providing guidance and direction by one who has attained a level of understanding and who has decided to help others do the same. It is about nurturing and being deliberate about the growth of another, all of which Dr Jumoke Oduwole keeps doing.
Sometime in 2012, a young second-year law student from the University of Lagos walked into the office of her Contract Law lecturer, and said, "Good afternoon, Ma. I really admire you and your teaching style and I want you to mentor me. I am looking to enter into an essay competition for female undergrads and I'll appreciate if you could help me review what I've written.”
In hindsight, that essay was definitely not my best work!
Dr Jumoke Oduwole (fondly called Dr J) has been more than a mentor to me. From that day in 2012, a new relationship began, which has shaped my career as a lawyer. She has been my teacher, hand-holder, scolder and the voice-in-my-head. All these she has done with love and a desire to see me live up to my full potential.
Obtaining her Master’s from the University of Cambridge as a DFID Commonwealth Scholar and a Ph.D from Stanford Law School, Dr J stands out from others in everything she does.
During her teaching career, she started an initiative, “No Limits”, to encourage undergraduates to push themselves beyond their own expectations. She spoke to students and invited her accomplished friends and colleagues to do the same. It was humbling to be a part of that initiative.
Fast forward to 2015. Now I was in my fourth year and had won the maiden edition of the Saana Institute Africa Trade Essay Competition. I headed to Nairobi to present my winning paper at the Trade and Development Symposium (TDS). To my surprise and delight I found, Dr J was attending the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi and there she broke the good news to me— she had been offered a political appointment by Nigeria’s Vice President as his Senior Special Assistant on Industry, Trade and Investment. I was beyond ecstatic!
“The world is your oyster, Ifeoluwa”, she said to me. She has always been a firm believer of operating in a spirit of excellence and preparing oneself for opportunities to excel on the world stage.
Fast forward again, to 2017. I had just graduated from the Nigerian Law School. Now, officially a lawyer, I was set for working life. One long chat with Dr J on my next step, presented a golden opportunity to work with her in the Office of the Vice President. I became part of a formidable team that focused on improvingNigeria’s business climate and removing critical bottlenecks to doing business. In just three years, the team improved Nigeria’s position on the World Bank Doing Business Rankings by 24 places.
I handled responsibilities that I never knew I was capable of. She trusted me to represent her at events, and even speak and make presentations at these events (within Nigeria and abroad). She was determined to hone my every skill, because excellence requires practise.
I have become a fulltime "city lawyer" working in "corporate Lagos", as a Banking & Finance Associate, in a top tier law firm — Banwo & Ighodalo. I cannot help but appreciate Dr J's huge role in my achievements.
Most are not lucky enough to find a mentor that touches every aspect of their life. What Dr J has done for me is impossible to measure. It is a relationship I will always respect and value.
It’s Dr J’s birthday today and this is me, the young law student, seven years later saying, “Thank you Dr J, for being consistent in guidance and true to excellence”.
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